A big problem facing today’s parents is how to get their children to eat right and stay in shape. With so many high-fat and high-sugar products available from supermarkets and fast food outlets, your children may not realize that there’s such a thing as good nutrition. And too much TV and Internet surfing may cause them to forget the importance of exercise. But good eating habits and exercise are especially important to growing bodies. Here are some ways to start your kids off with some good health habits.
- Make family exercise outings a regular activity. Take a family bike trip. Play a family game of touch football. Take everyone swimming or just run a race in the yard or a park.
- Encourage hobbies. Most kids complain about being bored. Keep your kids engaged. Playing a musical instrument, taking karate lessons, playing on a sports team, or even just taking them to the library can be a good thing.
- Let them walk. Strollers are important, but too often parents put their kids in strollers at an age when they’re able to walk. Although strollers are fine in shopping malls or on busy sidewalks, it’s not prudent to overly rely on them. Too much time in the stroller could teach kids that it is better to ride than to walk.
- Promote sports. Many of the activities kids want to do are sedentary. You may need to encourage periods of physical activity. Surfing the Internet and playing computer games won’t help your kids keep physically fit. Encourage them to play tag, Frisbee, or baseball—anything that keeps them moving.
- Don’t put kids on a diet. Instead, serve healthy meals and snacks. Pack their lunches so that they aren’t dining on chips and candy bars at the school cafeteria.
- Be a good example. A recent study showed that kids are eating too much fat, sugar, and salt and they aren’t consuming enough fruits and vegetables. Set a good example for your kids by serving a variety of fruits and vegetables at every meal.
You can also encourage your kids to eat healthy snacks. To ensure your kids are satisfying those hunger pangs in a healthful way, follow the three T’s.
- Timing: Limit snack time to about 15 minutes. Plan ahead and have plenty of fruit, nuts, and whole-grain crackers within easy reach.
- Total: An ideal snack will have a single serving from one or two food groups. Check labels for serving size, and avoid supersizing.
- Type: Replace processed, low-nutrient foods with more natural ones. Some suggestions:
- Jazz up the usual fruit offering with berries, oranges, grapes, and mangoes. Freeze peeled bananas on a stick, or add fruit to plain yogurt.
- Put peanut butter on apple or banana slices.
- Cut up fresh veggies and serve with low-fat salad dressing.
- Make mini-pizzas with whole-wheat English muffins, tomato sauce, and shredded cheese.
- Trade chips for whole-wheat breadsticks, pita bread, or unbuttered popcorn.
Perhaps the best side-effects of following these healthful guidelines is that group exercise time means family togetherness. With persistence, these habits will become hard to break.